A happy Thanksgiving to all, though for many, we are probably happy things are not worse. Many interesting documentaries and programs on how fossil fuels develop, on harnessing wind energy, on using water to produce power. Tonight is a great show on King Solomon's Mines. I think those who love antiques are a combination of recylcer and archaeologist. Certainly, those who love these and literatre are also anthropologists. There is an allure to the past,and it is certainly happier for many of us. I pondered today when Christmas and Thanksgiving turned into dates to be endured, and, even avoided, instead of to be anticipated. I know part of the answer is that when we are young, we do not worry about travel issues, and we certainly weren't frisked anywhere! We loved Oakbrook on Black Friday, and we always had money, enough to Christmas Shop and to eat out regularly. I never stressed over parking, and my dad didn't seem to, either. We loved the crowds, and to people watch. We loved meeting other people to talk to, some we knew, some not. My dad had a big conversation with the father of a woman federal judge my first Thanksgiving in law school. They struck up conversation at a mall on Black Friday.
Christmas at Marshall Fields with yule log cake was a tradition. So was my mother's decorations of popcorn strings and paper ornamments I made in school. We also made felt ornamnets and knitted ornaments, ornaments from painted eggs, quilling, clay, and embroidery. We had beautiful ornmanents my Uncle George made from egg cartons, and older one's we collected, or that my grandmother had. There were celluloid fish and glass balls from Greece, and a little cellophane tree that stood in my room for many Christmases. My mother always dressed one or more of my dolls in new outfits. She baked cookies, and baklava, and made oyster dressing. Sometimes, we ate out, but we always had oysters fried or in dressing.
We loved decoratings, and had nativity sets and trees in every room, some by theme. I had bird trees, and angel trees, and teddy trees. I painted ornaments in ceramics class, and did shadowboxes. Even the doll houses were decorated with all kinds of miniature trees, and Plantaganet House, my big red doll house, was strewn with tiny rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and boxes of tiny glass ornaments.
My mother wrapped everything, and we had lots and lots of presents, though many were modest and handmade. Christmas was a time of firsts; my first doll house, my first stereo, wrapped in brown paper with a sign "Do not open until Christmas! Keep Cotton picking hands off!"
The presents spilled onto the dining room ledge, under tables, in stockings,in handmade ornamnents on trees, in surprise balls Miss Ely, my Aunt Connie's principal where she worked, made with crepe paper streamers. We opened presents Christmas Eve, but saved some for Christmas Day and New Years. Some years, we flew to California, and the holiday was full of excitement and adventure, and we spent New Year's Eve on Fisherman's Wharf.
We went to Church, and for many years, sang in the choir on Christmas Day. We gave gifts there, and read the Bible. We did the Nativity play, and saw quaint old fashioned films at the old church about puppets and Santa Claus.
I made Dear Abby's pecan pie and cranberry bread as specialites. We had turkey or duck, and for a while, pheasant and smoked chicken. We had lobster and shrimp with champagne New Year's Eve, and one year, I had a party with all the International Students from school. We had kids from Mexico, Chile, Hong Kong, Portugal, Spain, Paraguay, and South Africa running around the house that night, and it was wonderful.
One wonderful Christmas, my mother had bought at least twenty antique dolls and doll heads from our beloved friend Violet. She had made many into dolls, and others we were to fix together. The beginning of my antique collection was born. Another Christmas, my Uncle Tom came to visit, and it was like the old days when he worked in Peoria. We went on short trips, and ate out, and shopped every night, savoring the excitement as Christmas approached.
I was busy with Christmas Programs at choir school, church, and school. I used to play the guitar with one little friend of mine; she and I had "gigs" with Panamerican Roundtable and at school. I caroled with the scouts, and we gave to The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots.
My mother is gone now; our holidays are just another trip to the cemetery. I rarely get presents now, and seldom eat out. I work up to the last minute; gone are the after Christmas sales at Macy's and Marshall Fields, and Black Friday is more of a mood these days than a euphoric event. There is no time to decorate as we did, and if we had time, I think I'd be the only one to appreciate it. My family is scattered, and seldom comes together as it did when I was little, and there were more than twelve of us gathered at the festive holiday tables where I used to to centerpieces.
My current family is not about traditions. And now, when I am home for Christmas, it is only in my dreams.
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